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Spencer: FBI Doesn’t Entrap, Does It?

Larry Spencer: From (Meghann Cuniff’s) story on Sept 7 “Fairfax has said he attached the pipe bomb to Cyndi Steele’s car in such a way that it wouldn’t explode, but his plea deal calls for him to acknowledge the device had the potential to explode.” Let’s think about this. Why, if the charges are true, would he put a bomb under a car and do so in a way that it couldn’t explode? Unless… He was making a deal with the FBI before this all started and offered to frame Steele in return for them dropping the firearm charges against him … Naw. That would mean the FBI is working some sort of entrapment game, and they just wouldn’t do that. I’m sure they wouldn’t. … Well, I would like to think that they don’t do that anymore. But it they are, look at the bright side, nobody died this time!

Question: Are you surprised that Cyndi Steele is standing by her husband who allegedly was plotting to kill her?

Glenn Beck inspired alleged grenade maker

A Spirit Lake man accused of making grenades in his home over the Fourth of July weekend fears a communist takeover but has never threatened anyone, his lawyer said in recently filed court documents. 

Though federal agents have emphasized statements Kenneth B. Kimbley, Jr., 58, made about militias and his dislike for President Barack Obama, the suspect “made absolutely no threats to harm anyone at anytime,” according to court documents prepared by Kimbley’s public defender, Kim Deater.

Kimbley is appealing a U.S. magistrate’s decision to keep him in jail before his trial, currently set for late November, saying he poses no threat to the community.

“In fact, everything said by Mr. Kimbley is no different than what his idol, Glenn Beck, typically states on the air and is protected free speech.” 

Deater writes that though Kimbley was “frequently baited” by an undercover agent, he and his friends “simply discussed their concerns of a communist takeover and the need to be prepared to defend themselves and the country if in fact a takeover occurred.”

Deater points out that Kimbley was not charged with making threats or with unlawful militia activity.

Instead, he’s charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and one count of making a firearm in violation of the national firearms act.

The first charge stems from Kimbley, prohibited form possessing firearms because of a felony conviction, allegedly selling an undercover agent a .22 caliber handgun in October 2009.

The second stems from his arrest on July 3, when federal agents found grenade component in his home at 28128 Highway 41. Steven Eugene Winegar, 52, also is charged.

Deater described Kimbley as “a hardworking, taxpaying citizen” who’s lived in the area for 30 years and worked as a truck driver for the last four. He’s concerned his wife may be homeless in the next few months because of financial problems.

U.S. Magistrate Mikel H. Williams allowed Winegar to leave jail before trial but ordered Kimbley held without bail. He rejected Kimbley’s appeal Sept. 9, but Kimbley filed another appeal Sept. 16.

No hearing has been scheduled.

Past coverage:

July 6: Illegal grenade manufacturing uncovered in Spirit Lake

Supremacist w/ assault rifles to stay jailed

A judge today ordered a white supremacist and convicted felon charged with unlawfully possessing two assault rifles and a handgun to stay in custody pending trial.  

Wayde Lynn Kurt, 52, also is suspected of using counterfeit identification cards to obtain a post office box and order merchandise from a gun store. He’s been in Spokane County Jail since his arrest on Monday.

Now he’ll stay there without bail after U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno ruled he was a flight risk and a danger to the community because of his history of failing to show up for court and disobeying court orders.

 Assistant U.S Attorney Earl Hicks described Kurt as a “known white supremacist” and “perpetual criminal” when arguing for Kurt’s detainment Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Kurt’s arrest is the latest for a convicted currency counterfeiter whose experience with the criminal justice system dates back to at least 1988, when he was acquitted of murder in Snohomish County.

Kurt was under investigation for counterfeiting when he removed a government tracking device from his car in 2004, then hid it in a storage unit he’d rented under a fake identification, Hicks said. Federal agents searched his home that year and found dozens of counterfeit social security cards, drivers licences and employment cards (pictured.)

Kurt is considered such a flight risk that the FBI didn’t give him a chance to surrender Monday - an agent ran up and tackled him. Read more in the past coverage:

Sept 3: Detention sought in supremacist’s weapons case

Sept. 1: FBI raid targets man with white supremacist ties

FBI raid targets man with skinhead ties

A felon who attracted federal attention for his contact with a jailed white supremacist leader is part of an ongoing investigation that includes a series of raids at Spokane County locations Tuesday.

Wayde Lynn Kurt, 52, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to a federal weapons charge alleging he unlawfully possessed two assault rifles and a handgun as a felon on Aug. 21. He’s due back in court Thursday.

Kurt was arrested Monday in an investigation authorities with the FBI declined to discuss.U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno warned Kurt Tuesday against improper use of the jail phone after Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks said a man tried removing evidence from a property being searched by the FBI after Kurt called him from jail.

Read my full story here.

Photos show bike-riding CdA bank robber

Surveillance photos show a masked gunman who police say robbed a Coeur d’Alene bank on Friday, then escaped on a bicycle. 

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that identify the man, who police say threw a cloth grocery bag at employees at Wells Fargo, 114 E. Appleway, about 6 p.m. while telling them to hurry and waving a “large-caliber handgun.”

 The robber left with an undisclosed amount of cash and was last seen riding a gray, three-speed bicycle south on Government Way. 

He wore a black mask, a black bike helmet, denim shorts, a long-sleeve button-down shirt and white shoes with red “squiggly” lines.  He was carrying a white cloth grocery bag with an American flag on it and the phrase “Freedom is not free,” and was described as being in his late 20s or early 30s, police said.

Anyone with information about the robbery or the robber is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (208) 667-2111 or toll free at (888) 667-2111. Tipsters do not have to give a name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number. 

Investigators do not believe the robbery is related to a series of bank robberies in Spokane that have been attributed to a man who typically escapes on a bike.

“There’s nothing inclusive at this point to indicate that was him,” said FBI supervisory senior resident agent Frank Harrill.

The FBI in Spokane still is seeking tips on that robber, who they believe is responsible for six robberies since December. The most recent was a noon-hour armed robbery at the Indian Trail branch of the Spokane Teacher Credit Union July 28.

Anyone with information on those robberies is asked to call the FBI’s Spokane office at (509) 747-5195, extension 2. If it’s after hours, call (206) 622-0460.

Internet fueling wide spread of child porn

WASHINGTON (AP) — The spread of child pornography, fueled by technology and the Internet, is outpacing efforts to combat it, the Justice Department said Monday in a report to Congress that promises more arrests, prosecutions and better coordination among federal, state and local authorities.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the distribution of child pornography, the number of images being shared online and violence against child victims all have increased. “Tragically, the only place we’ve seen a decrease is in the age of victims,” Holder said in a speech at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va.

The report, ordered by Congress in legislation approved two years ago, concedes that the market for child pornography continues to grow rapidly and determining its size is impossible. “The number of offenders accessing the images and videos and the quantity of images and videos being traded is unknown,” the report said.

Creating or possessing images that depict the sexual abuse of children is illegal. There is no First Amendment protection for child pornography.

In announcing a national strategy for preventing child exploitation, Holder laid out several steps that he said would help authorities make progress:

— The U.S. Marshals Service will target the “top 500 most dangerous” sex offenders who have not registered with authorities in the states where they live.

— The Justice Department is creating a database intended to increase cooperation among authorities at all levels of government that investigate child porn cases.

— Thirty-eight new prosecutors will be hired for child porn cases.

The increased attention to fighting child pornography already has led to record numbers of prosecutions and tips. More than 8,600 people have been prosecuted at the federal level since October 2006. State and local authorities focused on the use of the Internet in child sexual exploitation reported that documented complaints of online enticement of children more than tripled from 2004 to 2008 and complaints of child prostitution rose more than 10 times.

FBI hunts for bicycle-riding bank robber

A masked gunman believed to have robbed six banks since December still is being sought by the FBI. 

A noon-hour armed robbery at the Indian Trail branch of the Spokane Teacher Credit Union last Wednesday is similar to others heists attributed to a man who usually flees on a bicycle.

“It’s likely to be the same individual, although we are still actively investigating,” said FBI supervisory senior resident agent Frank Harrill. 

The suspected serial robber last struck May 25 at U.S. Bank, 621 E. 30th Ave., about 11:30 a.m., prompting lockdowns at nearby Sacajawea Middle School and Jefferson Elementary School.

The crime spree is believed to have started Dec. 22 at Sterling Savings Bank, 3000 S. Grand Blvd., then continued Feb. 13 (top left) and April 19 (right) at Chase Bank, 2215 W. Northwest Blvd. 

On May 18, the gunman wore a motorcycle helmet (left)and forced an employee at Chase Bank, 3007 E. 57th Ave., to the floor at gunpoint. 

Witnesses in at least one of the robberies said the gunman appeared to be familiar with how banks operate and knew which cash drawers to request.

The robber is described as white, 6-feet tall, in his 30s with a thin-to-medium build and fair complexion.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI’s Spokane office at (509) 747-5195, extension 2. If it’s after hours, call (206) 622-0460.

Barefoot Bandit’s tale turns to tricky legalities

SEATTLE — With Colton Harris-Moore locked up in a Bahamian jail, federal prosecutors in Seattle are compiling evidence of his alleged crimes on U.S. soil over the past two years, a process made even more difficult by the numerous jurisdictions claiming visits by the so-called “Barefoot Bandit.”

The number of federal and state charges that could be filed against the 19-year-old Camano Island man, let alone the amount or prison time he could face if convicted, is not yet clear. Once Harris-Moore is extradited to Seattle, a grand jury will review a case involving the theft of an airplane in Idaho — the sole federal charge filed against Harris-Moore — and additional charges could potentially be tacked on at that time, authorities said.

Over the past several weeks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Darwin Roberts has been in contact with police and prosecutors in states where Harris-Moore is suspected of committing crimes — a list that includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Wyoming and Nebraska — to find out how the prosecution should proceed, said Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle. He is suspected of burglarizing dozens of homes, and stealing cars, boats and at least five airplanes during a run from the law that began with his 2008 escape from a Seattle-area halfway house.

Read the rest of the story by Seattle Times reporter Jennifer Sullivan by clicking the link below.

Past coverage:

July 12: Barefoot Bandit to face Bahamian judge

Feb. 11: Stolen plane, chalk drawn feet: Teen burglar back?

Oct. 7: Teen bandit becoming national sensation

Barefoot Bandit linked to Bahamas break-ins

MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas (AP) — A teenage fugitive from Washington with a celebrated history of escapes has allegedly committed several nighttime burglaries in the Bahamas, eluding an FBI-aided manhunt on the sliver of an island where he crash-landed a stolen plane.

Investigators pursuing Colton Harris-Moore were following a trail of break-ins from the southern tip of Great Abaco Island, where the 19-year-old convict ditched the plane Sunday, to the main town of Marsh Harbour 50 miles away where the teen was recognized on surveillance footage of a restaurant burglary.

The Bahamas caper of the teen dubbed as the “Barefoot Bandit” began when he guided the single-engine Cessna into clear blue, knee-deep waters at a sparsely populated corner of the sun-soaked island. He apparently followed a peninsula of land to the town of Sandy Point, and he was reportedly seen walking across a road around the time a service station was burglarized Sunday night.

His arrival coincided with an annual regatta that may make it easy for him to blend in among the crowds of visiting tourists. It also came just before the unsealing of a complaint in U.S. District Court that accuses him of stealing a plane from the Boundary County Airport last fall.

A Royal Bahamian Police Force bulletin warned that the 19-year-old should be considered “armed and dangerous.” The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for tips that lead to his capture.

Bar and restaurant owner Alistair McDonald said he was one of the thief’s latest victims.

McDonald said surveillance video captured the suspect inside his establishment in Great Abaco’s Marsh Harbour (pictured above) before dawn Tuesday. He said the teen at one point looked directly into a security camera, then shone a flashlight into it to blur the image and turned all three security cameras to face the wall.

“He seemed pretty relaxed and at ease,” McDonald said, adding he thinks the thief was looking for money or got spooked because he left without stealing anything, not even a bottle of water. He gave the tape to police.

Service station owner Dwight Pinder (right) said his shop on the southern tip of Great Abaco was burglarized Sunday night, shortly after the plane crash in a nearby marsh. The thief stole a Gatorade and two packets of potato chips, leaving a bundle of food and drinks on the counter — a sign he apparently left in a rush.

Pinder told The Associated Press that the thief was so skilled that he didn’t even scratch the lock he picked.

A nearby house was also burglarized, with the thief making off with a brown Chevrolet Tahoe that was later found abandoned in the town of Marsh Harbour.

Read the rest of the story by clicking the link below.

Idaho raid seizes grenades, guns, ammo

Two North Idaho men are in custody following an undercover federal probe into illegal explosives manufacturing that included the seizure of hand grenades, firearms and more than 10,000 rounds of rifle ammo. 

Kenneth B. Kimbley, Jr., 58, (right) and Steven Eugene Winegar, 52, were arrested Saturday on federal firearms charges after agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found grenade components at Kimbley’s home at 28128 N. Highway 41 in Spirit Lake, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene.

Winegar told an undercover agent “he had 12 to 14 of these destructive devices at his own residence in Harpster, Idaho,” according to the documents.

Read the rest of my story here.

Agents Seize North Idaho Grenades

Two North Idaho men are in custody following an undercover federal probe into illegal explosives manufacturing that included the seizure of hand grenades, firearms and more than 10,000 rounds of rifle ammo. Kenneth B. Kimbley, Jr., and Steven Eugene Winegar were arrested Saturday on federal firearms charges after agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found grenade components at Kimbley’s home at 28128 Highway 41 in Spirit Lake, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene/Meghann Cuniff, SR. More here.

Informant forgets to tell FBI about pipe bomb

A man who approached federal agents last week about an alleged murder-for-hire plot hatched by a former lawyer for the Aryan Nations may have left out a key detail: He’d already rigged an explosive to the intended victim’s car.

 Larry Andrew Fairfax, 49, remains in federal custody after appearing in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday on firearms charges related to a pipe bomb attached to the bottom of Edgar Steele’s wife’s SUV Tuesday. Auto shop employees found the explosive Tuesday during an oil change.

Although federal agents won’t confirm whether it was Fairfax who tipped them last week to the alleged murder plot, citing rules for protecting the identity of confidential informants, they said Wednesday they are not looking for any additional suspects in the case.

“There’s no pending public safety threat,” said Don Robinson, supervisory agent for the FBI’s Coeur d’Alene office.

Fairfax was arrested Tuesday at Coeur d’Alene police headquarters after he told investigators he made the bomb at his home on Ponderosa Road near Sagle, about six miles from Steele’s Talache Road home, which was raided by federal agents Friday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 16: Steele: ‘This is a very emotional situation’

June 16: Bomb found on SUV registered to suspect

3 Letters w/Powder Go To CdA, Spokane

Three letters containing white powder were mailed to Inland Northwest federal offices Monday. One letter was mailed to the FBI Office in Spokane at the Rockpointe Building, another was received at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Coeur d’Alene, and a third was found at the FBI Office in Downtown Coeur d’Alene. Throughout the Northwest, a total of 7 letters have been located so far. The FBI confirms letters were mailed to the Seattle Federal Courthouse, Bellevue IRS building, Boise U.S. Attorney’s Office, and an office in Pocatello/John Langeler, KREM2. More here.

Serial robber suspected in latest holdup

Federal investigators believe a serial robber is responsible for a bank hold-up on the South Hill Tuesday that locked down two schools.

“It’s almost certainly going to be the same individual,” said FBI supervisory senior resident agent Frank Harrill.

  The gunman robbed U.S. Bank, 621 E. 30th Ave., about 11:30 a.m. Sacajawea Middle School and Jefferson Elementary School were locked down for about an hour.

FBI agents believe the robber may be fleeing the banks on a bicycle, but he may have other transportation also, Harrill said.

The robber is first believed to have struck Dec. 22 at Sterling Savings Bank, 3000 S. Grand Blvd., then Feb. 13 and April 19 at Chase Bank, 2215 W. Northwest Blvd. (The Feb. 13 robbery is pictured.)

Then on May 18, the gunman wore a motorcycle helmet and forced an employee at Chase Bank, 3007 E. 57th Ave., to the floor at gunpoint.

Witnesses in at least one of the robberies said the man appeared to be familiar with how banks operate and knew which cash drawers to request.

Investigators aren’t sure if the knowledge possible is from bank experience or criminal experience, “but we’ll find out,” Harrill said.

The robber is described as white, 6-feet tall, in his 30s with a thin-to-medium build and fair complexion.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI’s Spokane office at (509) 747-5195, extension 2. If it’s after hours, call (206) 622-0460.

Past coverage and photos:

May 19: Serial robber suspect in bank holdups

March 4: Police: Man robbed 2 banks in 2 months

FBI Raids Chillers, CdA Home

An FBI SWAT Team executed several early morning raids across Coeur d’Alene Tuesday morning as part of a federal drug bust of a ring that was trafficking marijuana and cocanie. A home at 9th and Homestead was one of the properties raided by federal agents Tuesday. FBI agents also served a search warrant at Chillers, a night club located in the 1900 block of Sherman Avenue. Witnesses there say the agents seized a number of items from the night club as evidence including gambling equipment. As of Tuesday afternoon Chillers remained closed/Jeff Humphrey, KXLY. More here.

  • H/T HMOffsuite

FBI: Serial robber suspected in bank holdups

A man who targeted Chase Bank on Tuesday may be a serial robber responsible for three other holdups at two banks since December.

 The FBI is investigating the robberies, which began Dec. 22 at Sterling Savings Bank, 3000 S. Grand Blvd. Chase Bank, 2215 W. Northwest Blvd, was robbed Feb. 13 and April 19.

  In each of those robberies, the gunman wore a mask and a hooded jacket, though a different one each time. 

In Tuesday’s robbery, the culprit wore a motorcycle helmet and forced an employee to the ground at gunpoint.

The man is described as white, 6-feet tall, in his 30s with a thin-to-medium build and fair complexion. 

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI’s Spokane office at (509) 747-5195, extension 2. If it’s after hours, call (206) 622-0460.

Photos of the Tuesday’s robbery and the robbery on April 19 are posted.

For photos of the Feb. 13 and Dec. 22 robberies, check out this post from March 4:  Police: Man robbed 2 banks in 2 months

Feds: Murder plot uncovered in pot case

A Las Vegas developer acquitted by a federal jury in a North Idaho marijuana distribution case remains jailed without bail, now accused of conspiring to kill the prosecution’s key witnesses, including a Post Falls couple who testified against him.

  Kelly J. Polatis, (left) who worked with the company still fighting Kootenai County’s rejection of the proposed Chateau de Loire lakeside development, waived extradition Wednesday to Utah, where he’s been charged in U.S. District Court with using interstate commerce for the commission of murder for hire.

He’s also suspected of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor in an investigation his lawyer says was triggered by a nanny whose son was a government informant.

 On Thursday, Chataeu marketing director Melody Jones said Polatis is long removed from the project.

“When we all saw what kind of person he was we got rid of him,” Jones said.

Polatis, 40, was arrested with Karrie Hatridge (right), Charlie Hatridge (left) and Ryan C. Jackson in November 2008 after Idaho State Police seized hundreds of marijuana plants from a Post Falls home owned by the Hatridges, who operated American Mortgage Solutions in Rathdrum. 

A fourth defendant, Ryan C. Jackson, pleaded guilty last summer to misprision of a felony and is on three years probation.

Jackson (right), whose brother is a Kootenai County sheriff’s deputy, tended to the marijuana for two weeks “receiving neither money nor money in return,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer. “His main offense was one of not reporting the criminal activity to the authorities,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer last summer. 

Polatis was charged in the murder plot through a sealed complaint filed on Friday, the same day a federal jury acquitted him of marijuana charges that carried a five-year minimum prison term.

His defense lawyer, noted Las Vegas litigator Gabriel Grasso, is suspicious over the timing of the new charges.

“That might tell you something: They don’t like to lose,” said Grasso, whose past clients have included reputed gangsters and former football great O.J. Simpson. “It’s a humbling thing to be faced with the might of the federal government and actually come out on top. Defense attorneys call it ‘walking on the moon.’”

Read the rest of my story: Developer accused of murder plot

Feds raid office tied to alleged Ponzi scheme

Agents of the FBI and IRS Tuesday searched the offices of Team Spirit America, the operating affiliate of a payday loan business that investors allege was a Ponzi scheme.

An agent posted inside the door of the offices at 1801 W. Broadway Ave. declined to comment on the activity, or whether a search warrant had been issued.

Spokesmen for the IRS, FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office also would not respond to questions. Washington State Patrol officers were present during the search.

Team Spirit is managed by Doris Nelson, founder of Little Loan Shoppe, which made short-term installment loans. Little Loan Shoppe, as LLS America LLC, filed bankruptcy in August.

Read the rest of Bert Caldwell’s story here.

Previous coverage:

Feb 24: State outlines Ponzi charges

July 23: Loan shop files for bankruptcy

Man robs bank in Coeur d’Alene

A man robbed a bank today in Coeur d’Alene.

The robber, who authorities said did not appear to be armed, entered the Washington Trust Bank, 218 East Lakeside Ave., about 12:30 p.m. and left with an undisclosed amount of cash.

He was last seen walking north through the Las Palmitas restaurant parking lot on North Third Street before turning east in front of the Torch Lounge, according to Coeur d’Alene police.

The man is described as 5-foot-10 with an average build and a dark brown goatee. He was in his early 30s and wore a dark blue zip-up style jacket with a white t-shirt underneath. He wore light blue jeans and a light grey baseball hat with a tan bill and sunglasses above the bill. He also wore light grey wool gloves.

The FBI is investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call (208) 664-5128.

Self-taught teen pilot may have taken plane

A teen who authorities think taught himself how to fly may be responsible for the theft of a pricey private plane from the Boundary County Airport this week.

A logger found the 2005 Cessna 182 turbo plane (left) crashed in a clearing near Granite Falls Thursday afternoon. The FBI, DEA, and Homeland Security are scouring the area looking for the pilot who apparently walked away from the crash, which a Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman described as “survivable.” 

Authorities say the plane heist resembles two aircraft thefts in Western Washington that have been connected to Colton Harris-Moore, an 18-year-old serial burglar who escaped from a juvenile facility in April 2008.

The picture to the right was taken by him with a stolen digital camera, according to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

“We still don’t know it’s that guy, but everything’s pointing to it,” said plane owner Patrick Gardiner.

Read the rest of my story here.

Check out The Seattle Times’ coverage of Harris-Moore here.

FBI looking at ‘promising’ tips in bank robbery

The FBI released a video Thursday showing the robbery at a northeast Spokane bank earlier this week.

The robber, wearing in a costume wig and a fake mustache, covered his hand with his sleeve before opening the door, concealing his fingerprints, then forced employees to their knees at gunpoint and bound them with duct tape.

“We have a number of leads that we’re pursuing. Some promising,” FBI agent Frank Harrill said today.

The robbery occurred a few minutes before noon Tuesday. at the INB Bank branch at Hawthrone Road and Nevada Street.

The robber, dressed in a blonde wig and a fake mustache, told the employees to lay on top of golf balls that he said were pressure-sensitive explosives, officials said.

The man was described as a white man in his 30s, wearing a gold-colored glasses with square rims, yellow construction-type boots and a purple and gold hooded poncho with a large front pocket with the word “Stussy” printed in white.

Anyone with information about the robbery should call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.